Best Defense

A question from a ROTC cadet: How can a JO learn from mistakes of last 14 years?

Running here with his permission. What is your answer?

Chief Warrant Officer Hooler ask a question about the Army's NCO corp to the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George W. Casey Jr.,  Camp Humphreys, S. Korea, Dec. 16, 2009.  Casey came to S. Korea as part of an around the world trip to see Soldiers and thank them for their service.  Army photo by D. Myles Cullen (released)
Chief Warrant Officer Hooler ask a question about the Army's NCO corp to the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Camp Humphreys, S. Korea, Dec. 16, 2009. Casey came to S. Korea as part of an around the world trip to see Soldiers and thank them for their service. Army photo by D. Myles Cullen (released)

Running here with his permission. What is your answer?

I have been listening to the Editor’s Roundtable podcasts on Foreign Policy lately and one of the central themes has been how the institutional structure of the military is set up to resist change and fails to produce working strategies for victory. As an Army ROTC cadet, I am left wondering what influence future junior officers can have on trying to improve the Army. One the main reasons I joined ROTC was because I wanted to be part of the generation in the Army that could help prevent the mistakes made over the past decade and a half. If the institution is set up for failure, what can a junior officer actually do to make any degree of difference? Is one supposed to “play the game” until he or she reaches a position where they’ll have actual influence or risk any hope of career advancement by being a critic from the beginning?

Cadet Command to its credit, has tried to get more cadets to think about institutional failures and is trying to produce more adaptive leaders by getting away simply teaching PT and land navigation. Yet it’s still common to hear that we have “the best Army in the world” and “won both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”. Do you have any suggestions for what role of a junior officer is in trying to learn from our mistakes?

Best,

CDT Colin Thackston

Colin Thackston
B.S. Computer Science
Indiana University Army ROTC

Photo credit: United States Forces Korea image archive/Flickr

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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